Media find abandoned villa of dictator's close friend in Finland
A close friend of Putin built a villa for him in Finland (Photo:Sputnik Gavriil Grigorov / Kremlin via REUTERS)
Viktor Khmarin, a Russian lawyer and businessman, and friend and relative-by-marriage of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, owns a three-story villa on the shores of a lake in Finland that he had intended to gift to Putin, journalists have discovered.
Khmarin and Putin were supposed to go hunting and fishing there together, independent Russian outlet the Insider said in an investigation published on May 18.
Khmarin was Putin's fellow student at Leningrad State University. According to the Insider, he played an important role in Putin's relations with the Tambov Gang criminal organization and now he is actively lobbying the laws on his behalf and funding the Kremlin's propaganda projects.
He built for Putin the villa with a fishing farm on Lake Saimaa in Finland.
"You see, each of his friends tried to build some kind of resort so that Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) would come there and they could solve their problems in such a way," a St. Petersburg businessman, who knows some members of the Ozero cooperative (founded by Russian oligarchs together with Putin to develop “dachas” or country houses), said on condition of anonymity.
The journalists visited Putin's "home" in Finland and found out that it has been abandoned for several years, as Putin is unlikely to visit it.
"The door of Khmarin's villa in Finland was unexpectedly open. Inside, the heating and elevator were working. Expensive building materials were lying everywhere, electrical wires were sticking out, and there were unpacked boxes with exclusive ceramic tiles, refrigerators, washbasins, and other plumbing," the journalists said.
The general plan obtained by the journalist shows that the house has an office, a dining room, a wine cellar, a billiard room, an underground garage, a small pool, a sauna, and eight toilets. The premises were decorated by Russia's workers brought from Russia. Some boxes were signed: "Do not touch without my approval" and initialed "LV."
According to the Insider, the approximate cost of the fishing complex on Lake Saimaa is about EUR 3 million ($3.25 million). The preparation works cost EUR 120,000 ($130,000), the villa itself cost EUR 500,000 ($541,000), the guard house cost EUR 200,000 ($216,000), and building materials cost EUR 400,000 ($433,000). The fishing house, utility block, wooden bridges, walkways, glacier, and more are not included in these estimates.
The building teams were changed several times during the construction as some of them were dissatisfied with their salaries, while others with the working conditions. Some Finnish specialists also refused to work with Khmarin, the Insider wrote.
The journalists talked to one of the Finns who brought communications to the building. He was reluctant to mention clients from Russia.
"They had a hard time paying the bills, as they refused to pay five times. We constantly had to remind them. Finally, we refused to work with them, and kicked out the Khmarin's representative, who was in charge of paying the bills."
Putin in July 2017 visited the Finnish city of Savonlinna, which is 10 kilometers away from the villa on Lake Saimaain. He was met by the then-President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö and his wife. According to the local press, the visit of the Kremlin's leader paralyzed the life of the small town.
The locals had never seen so many Russian security guards before.
While Putin was having talks with his Finnish counterpart, one of Khmarin's aides, who was part of the official delegation, secretly went to the villa and ordered all construction work to be stopped.
"He told the workers that times have changed and Putin wouldn't have time for Finnish fishing," the newspaper wrote.
Apparently, Khmarin wrote off the property as a loss: there was no buyer for the 850-meter-long, three-story building with other buildings, as owning a country house of this size is considered immodest by Finns.
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